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U.S. blacklists key Myanmar military businesses

The United States unveiled new measures on Thursday to punish Myanmar's army for its coup.

The action includes blocking top military conglomerates and the ministries of defense and home affairs from certain types of trade.

Sources told Reuters the U.S. has also indefinitely frozen $1 billion in funds, which Myanmar's military rulers attempted to withdraw from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Washington is also introducing export restrictions, requiring U.S. suppliers to seek hard-to-obtain licenses to ship Myanmar's military certain items.

The new measures come as the military intensifies its crackdown on peaceful protesters, who have taken to the streets almost every day since Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government was overthrown on February 1.

More than 1,700 people have been arrested, including 29 journalists, and at least 54 people have been killed, according to the United Nations.

President Joe Biden slapped sanctions on Myanmar last month, including the defense minister and three companies in the jade and gems sector.

In a statement on Thursday, the U.S. Commerce Department said that it will not continue allowing Myanmar's military to benefit from access to many items.

Advocacy group Justice For Myanmar said on Tuesday that the Ministry of Home Affairs, which commands the police, had purchased American technology that was being used for social media surveillance.

The two conglomerates being targeted, Myanmar Economic Corporation and Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited, are also used by the military to control vast swathes of the country's economy, with holdings ranging from beer and cigarettes to tires, mining and real estate.

But the new measures are expected to have limited impact, as the U.S. ships little to Myanmar annually, and the targeted entities are not major importers.